RALEIGH (AP) — A new year means more than 20 new laws take effect Friday. Several focus on cars and driving. Others address abortion, taxes and unemployment. While citizens will notice some changes immediately, other laws won’t be felt for a few months, or even until 2017.
Here are some details:
Physicians must provide more data to the state Department of Health and Human Services about each abortion they perform when it occurs after the woman’s 16th week of pregnancy, including an ultrasound image of the unborn child. If the pregnancy is after 20 weeks, a doctor also must explain in writing how continuing the pregnancy threatened the mother with serious risk of death or substantial physical harm — the exception for the ban on such later-term abortions. The doctor must remove the woman’s identifying information from the confidential records being sent.
Most registered voters will have to show one of several types of photo identification to vote in person, although the requirement doesn’t begin in earnest until March, when early voting begins for the March 15 primary. Election officials have planned for the mandate since Gov. Pat McCrory signed a 2013 elections law. Voter ID provisions were amended last summer to allow some who are finding it difficult to obtain a free ID to vote anyway. Lawsuits challenging the requirement are pending in state and federal courts. Some plaintiffs have asked a federal judge to block the requirement for the primary, saying it will disproportionately harm minority groups. A state judge has ruled the requirement should take effect.
ANOTHER BREAK ON GAS
Motorists already enjoying lower pump prices get another 1-cent drop in the state gasoline tax to 35 cents per gallon. It’s the second of three incremental gas-tax reductions lawmakers approved last spring. The rate is to fall to 34 cents July 1. The motor fuels tax likely would have fallen below 30 cents per gallon under the old law, which recalculated the tax twice annually based on the wholesale price of gas.
HIGHER DRIVING FEES
The legislature agreed to the first widespread upward adjustment of Division of Motor Vehicles fees since 2005. On average, each fee category is going up by 30 percent. For example, a private car title will now cost $52, up from $40; and the base annual plate registration will increase to $36 from $28. A regular driver’s license good for eight years will cost $40, up from $32. DMV fee proceeds benefit transportation.
CAR REGISTRATION AND INSURANCE
The DMV will start emailing annual invoices for registration and property taxes, but car owners first must agree to stop receiving the notice by traditional mail. Auto insurance rules for non-U.S. citizens, meanwhile, are getting stricter. Insurers may no longer accept someone’s matricula consular or embassy-created identification card as proof of residence.
Standard deductions for individual income-tax filers are increasing by $250, $400 or $500 depending on filing status, beginning with income earned in 2016, so many won’t notice the change until they file returns in 2017. A married couple filing jointly now won’t pay taxes on the first $15,500 of 2016 income, up from $15,000. Corporations filing taxes quarterly should see earlier benefits from a 2016 income-tax-rate decline from 5 percent to 4 percent.
Starting Sunday, people who file new unemployment claims must make at least five weekly job contacts to keep qualifying for benefits, up from two under previous rules.
Parents can now place security freezes on credit reports of children under 16, even if the children haven’t yet accumulated any debt in their name. Attorney General Roy Cooper says the change can stop thieves from borrowing or taking out credit cards using a child’s identity.
North Carolina business owners now have a certain legal recourse against people who deliberately get jobs to steal company secrets or record purported maltreatment at farms or factories. The “Property Protection Act” in part responds to hidden-camera exposes of animal cruelty and was opposed by animal-rights groups. Supporters of the law argue legitimate whistleblowers still will be protected.
The types of qualifications an expert must have to evaluate sex education curriculum and deem it acceptable before a school district can teach it to middle-schoolers has been widened. The change may open the door to more materials from organizations with religious connections.